Interview with Evangeline Osbon on original play Think
Recent graduate of ALRA's Three Year Acting course Evangeline Osbon is performing her original play Think at Theatre 503 on Monday, 24th July before taking the play to Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 5th - 12th August. The cast includes graduate of the same course Ebony Wong, as well as ALRA Third Year students Maddie Coles, Stefan Race and Romario Simpson.
We had a chance to catch up with Evangeline and find out more about her inspiration behind the play. Here's what she told us:
ALRA: We know things have been busy for you with all the preparation for your upcoming performance so thank you for taking time to speak to us about your play, Evie. Could you please tell us what inspired you to write Think?
Evangeline Osbon: My sister, Izzie, battled with Anorexia Nervosa for a long time and was admitted to an eating disorder unit. A previous partner of mine was also admitted to a mental health unit because he tried to take his life. It is heart-breaking watching someone you love struggle, especially with an illness you can’t see. I began to realise how little I knew about mental health and I didn’t understand why I hadn’t been taught more.
What shocked me most was the way people spoke about mental health and how people deal with it in conversation, either avoiding the topic entirely, out of fear, or being offensive, usually out of ignorance. It struck me that both reasons are a result of a lack of knowledge.
So I teamed up with Madeleine Coles who also has a lot of insight into mental health and we began to find a cast to devise ‘Think’ with. We shaped a story and then I wrote a final draft. Nothing is ever final though, we are constantly changing and refining the story.
ALRA: How do you think the world views Anorexia, and if you could educate people what would you tell them?
EO: I think with eating disorders particularly it is hard for people to understand because they see a physical change and might think, ‘just eat!’. But they need to understand that that person is battling with a distorted perception of body image which shows them a different figure in the mirror to what others see.
Although an eating disorder usually begins with a conscious choice to restrict your diet, when a person does this and loses weight, they also loose water from their brain which makes decisions a lot harder. In this way, the illness takes over and lots of sufferers hear voices and experience psychosis, while the physical changes leave their body vulnerable to heart attacks and lots of other health complications.
It’s not as simple as ‘just eat!’. I would educate people to be a little more understanding. Love and compassion is always the answer. My sister’s experience of Anorexia will be completely different to how you may experience it, or how someone you know may battle with it, so the key is listening without judgement.
ALRA: Tell us a bit more about your character in the play, do you have any similarities?
EO: I play ANA and NURSE 1. ANA is short for Anorexia and a lot of people with Anorexia call their illness this for short. ANA is the voice in JAY’s head but we bring her to life as an imaginary friend that only JAY, played by Stefan Race, knows is there.
NURSE 1 is quite strict and unsympathetic so I don’t think I share many similarities with either of my characters. The only link between myself and ANA would be that ANA and JAY are best friends when he is at his most ill and I would say my sister Izzie, who inspired JAY, is also my best friend. NICOLA, played by Ebony Wong, who is JAY’s sister is the character who I share the most similarities with as the brother-sister relationship is based on mine and Izzie’s. NICOLA gets frustrated with JAY but she cares and seeks to understand.
ALRA: What is the message you want your audience to gain from watching your play?
EO: To people who may be battling with their mental health we want to say you are going to be okay. To people who know someone who is struggling, we want to say listen without judgement. We ultimately want to promote kindness and ask people to ‘Think’.
ALRA: How do you feel about your upcoming performances in Theatre 503 and Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
EO: I am so excited I couldn’t even put it into words. It is a little mind-blowing thinking about when the play was just an idea and now it’s a show. Theatre 503 is a beautiful venue and we feel very lucky to have the opportunity to perform there. And Edinburgh is the most exciting place to take new writing and we can’t wait to hear people’s views on our piece. The most exciting thing is how I hope the piece will continue to evolve after Edinburgh.
ALRA: We would also like to congratulate you on your recent graduation! What were your three years at ALRA like?
EO: Thank you! They were the best three years of my life. I found a second family and learnt about the actor and human I wanted to become (cringe but true). ALRA really nurtures individuality and without that I wouldn’t have the confidence in myself that I have now. I feel the most equipped to enter the industry I could possibly be. I had so much fun and I loved every second.
ALRA: What are you most excited and anxious about for your career ahead?
EO: I am definitely most anxious about paying the rent but I’m sure it’ll be fine! I am most excited to learn more and keep improving my craft.
ALRA: Finally, what piece of advice would you give to current and future students at ALRA, based on your experience?
EO: The power of 'Now'! Be in the moment and embrace every second. It is only nine terms and time flies. Also, stay true to yourself because there is only one you. Compete with yourself, not others. Be the best you can be because you are enough and you are amazing!
Thank you so much Evangeline for sharing your incredible story, we wish you all the best for your shows and future career.
Earlier this year Evangeline also won the 2017 Sir Alec Guinness Award, read the blog to learn more.